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Welcome to GeekPots. I create wheel-thrown functional and decorative ceramics, inspired by math, physics, kitchen gadgets, and the occasional chicken.

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A life-long pianist, I find working with clay similar to practicing a musical instrument: both processes invite one to develop attention to form and detail, to balance technique with improvisation, and to discover a personal creative voice. 

Alongside music, my background in physics and math informs my art. Physics governs the relationships between the forms and surfaces of my zigzag and swoosh pots. I cut or swipe patterns into slipped cylinders; these expand into captivating organic designs as I stretch the pots from the inside. Friction torques vertical lines into spirals, parallel swooshes drift apart or scrunch together, and coarse canyons emerge between smooth-slipped plateaus. The transformations are different every time, functions of variables both within and beyond my control: initial patterns, depths of cuts, slopes of curves, plasticity of clay bodies, magnitude of expansion, directional spin of the wheel. Occasionally, fortuitous scars appear: an un-wedged air bubble pops and flattens to hug the pot’s surface, or a narrow fault line cracks open as the clay stretches to its limits. I enjoy how this rough evidence of material and process juxtaposes with well-practiced symmetry.

SWOOSH

My swooshed surfaces are made using cake decorating combs. Sometimes I apply sodium silicate (a desiccant) before swooshing, which yields a crackle effect.

ZIGZAG

I once spent a beautiful afternoon perusing kitchen supply shops in Meran, Italy. After spending at least 20 minutes staring at a gadget-laden wall, I was approached by a shopkeeper who asked if I needed assistance. I did my best auf Deutsch to explain that I was a potter seeking tools for surface decoration. I suspect he thought I was a little crazy, but I did eventually leave with a snazzy new ravioli wheel to add to my collection.

GEEK

My dad was a math professor at the University of Illinois, so I grew up wandering around Altgeld Hall looking at vintage plaster Platonic solids stored in antique oak curio cabinets. Much of my art makes me think about math and physics, from the swoosh and zigzag pots above to the more explicitly mathy Klein bottles, nested spheroids, Cadogan teapot, π plate, and salt rocks below.

CHICKARINAS, PENGUINS, and OTHER BIRDS

Having thrown chickens off the hump for well over a decade, I can confidently say that the egg comes first. My chickens started off as rattles, but evolved into well-tempered ocarinas, which is what happens when you have a PhD in Music Theory and a BS in Physics–so these birds are the culmination of decades of musical training and rigorous academic study. Click here to listen to a chickarina in action. For an explanation of the penguins, click here; and for herons, here.

LIGHT

The ceramic hole (to quote Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology) “adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence . . . But the supplement supplements. It adds only to replace . . . if it fills, it is as if one fills a void . . . its place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an emptiness.”

About

CERAMICS RESUME

EDUCATION

Ph.D. Music Theory, minor Linguistics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1998

B.M. Piano Performance, summa cum laude, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1991

M.S. Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1989

B.S. Physics, summa cum laude, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1987

Ceramics classes taken at the Durham Arts Council, Claymakers, and Penland School of Crafts

Workshops taken with Alan Bennett, John Britt, Leonora Coleman, Susan Feagin, Marty Fielding, Denny Gerwin, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Jim Lawton, Vince Pitelka, Deborah Schwartzkopf, Gay Smith, and Carolyn Wyland

RELEVANT WORK EXPERIENCE

Independent Studio Artist, 2010-present

Instructor, Claymakers, Durham, NC, 2007-present

SOLO AND DUO EXHIBITS

Claymakers, Circle of Influence, two-person show, Durham, NC, January 17-March 14, 2020

Carol Woods Retirement Community, solo 3D show, Chapel Hill, NC, April 13-May 18, 2018

INVITED EXHIBITS

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XVI, Gainesville, FL, October 3-November 1, 2020

ClayAKAR, Yunomi Invitational 2020, Iowa City, IA, June 12-June 26, 2020

Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show XI, Creedmoor, NC, May 16-September 7, 2020

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Exquisite Forms II, Gainesville, FL, February 22-March 20, 2020

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XV, Gainesville, FL, October 1-November 1, 2019

Claymakers, Steinfest 2019, Durham, NC, September 27-November 10, 2019

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XIV, Gainesville, FL, October 6-November 20, 2018

Claymakers, Steinfest 2018, Durham, NC, September 27-November 10, 2018

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Exquisite Forms, online, February 17-March 16, 2018

Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor, NC, January 13-February 26, 2018

Greenhill Center for NC Art, Winter Show 2017, Greensboro, NC, December 3, 2017-January 13, 2018

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XIII, online, October 7-November 3, 2017

Claymakers, Steinfest 2017, Durham, NC, September 29-November 11, 2017

Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show X, Creedmoor, NC, May 19-September 5, 2017

FRANK Gallery, Pots from the Piedmont, Chapel Hill, NC, October 9-November 30, 2016

Claymakers, Steinfest 2016, Durham, NC, September 30-November 14, 2016

Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor, NC, January 9-February 21, 2016

Perkinson Art Gallery, Millikin University, Just Use It, Decatur, IL, December 1-10, 2015

Cinema Gallery, Use It: A Show of Functional Ceramics, Urbana, IL, June 21-Augst 29, 2015

Claymakers, Steinfest 2015, Durham, NC, September 25-November 15, 2015

Mathematics of Science, Art, Industry, and Culture (www.mosaicmathart.org), traveling exhibit, June 2014-September 2016

Claymakers, Steinfest 2014, Durham, NC, October 3-November 21, 2014

Baltimore Clayworks, Southern Hospitality, Baltimore, MD, 11 January-22 February 2014

Claymakers, Steinzeugkrug: Present Day Interpretations, Durham, NC, October 4-November 16, 2013

Claymakers, Line and Rhythm, Durham, NC, November 16, 2012-January 12, 2013

Cinema Gallery, All Steamed Up Invitational Teapot Show, Urbana, IL, December 3, 2011-January 21, 2012

Claymakers, Season of Lights, Durham, NC, November 18, 2011-January 14, 2012

JURIED EXHIBITS

28th Strictly Functional Pottery National, online, September 26-October 31, 2020

Sculpture in the Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, September 16-December 6, 2020

Mathematical Art Exhibition, 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings, Baltimore, MD, January 16-19, 2019

25th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Lancaster, PA, September 16-October 21, 2017

Plough Gallery, Tea: The Ritual and the Art, Tifton, GA, April 15-June 1, 2017

Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XII, online, October 1-Novermber 4, 2016

24th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Lancaster, PA, September 17-October 22, 2016

Claymakers, Claybody: The Human Form in Ceramic Art, Durham, NC, March 18-May 13, 2016

Bridges 2015 international conference on math/art intersections, Exhibit, Baltimore, MD, July 28-August 1, 2015

Towson University Center for the Fine Arts Gallery, Exhibit, Towson, MD, June 26-July 25, 2015

Bridges 2012 international conference on math/art intersections, Exhibit, Towson, MD, July 25-29, 2012

Towson University Center for the Fine Arts Gallery, Bridges: Connections between Art and Mathematics, Towson, MD, June 30-July 29, 2012

AWARDS

Mathematical Art Exhibition, Joint Mathematics Meetings, Best Textile, Sculpture, or Other Medium, 2019

25th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Purchase Award sponsored by The John Ground Collection, 2017

24th Strictly Functional Pottery National, Purchase Award sponsored by The George School, 2016

Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant, Durham Arts Council, Durham, NC, 2014

THE POTTERS’ PENGUIN PROJECT

Founder and curator, 2016-present

www.facebook.com/potterspenguinproject

A community art project to make the impacts of global warming on distant places more immediately tangible to makers and viewers, the Potters’ Penguin Project energized nearly 600 makers to create over 2,000 handmade clay penguins, and raised $5,000 to support environmental advocacy non-profits.

Exhibits:

Claymakers Gallery, Durham, NC, January 10-February 11, 2017 (1,973 penguins)

North Carolina State University Crafts Center gallery, Raleigh, NC, February 20-April 28, 2017 (600+ penguins)

Greensboro Science Center, Greensboro, NC, April 25-May 20, 2017 (200+ penguins)

Maker Events:

North Carolina Science Festival, lectures and public Make-a-Penguin events, North Carolina State University, sponsored by Research Triangle MRSEC, April 8, 2017

Multiple public/independent school Make-a-Penguin workshops, Durham, NC, 2016-2017

Multiple public Make-a-Penguin events, Claymakers, Durham, NC, 2016

Press:

“From Our Supporters,” Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2019

“Potters’ Penguin Project,” INDY Week, January 9, 2017

PROCEEDINGS

“Thinking like a Pianist/Mathematician/Potter-Designer: Strategies for Tuning Ocarinas.” Proceedings of Bridges 2015: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2015), 559–562.

 PUBLISHED IMAGES

American Mathematical Society, 2020 Calendar of Mathematical Imagery, cover image and October

Ceramics Monthly, “Exposure” (Charlie Cummings Gallery Cup: The Intimate Object), November 2017

500 Teapots Volume 2, Lark Books, 2013

500 Vases, Lark Books, 2010

2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings Exhibition of Mathematical Art, 2019

Bridges 2015 Art Exhibition Catalog, 2015

Bridges 2012 Art Exhibition Catalog, 2012

SERVICE

Planning Committee, Durham County Pottery Tour, November 2016-present

Claymakers Arts Community Inc., Durham, NC:

–  Board Member, 2019-present

–  Past-President, 2015

–  President, Founding Board, 2011-2014; assisted with reorganization of Claymakers into 501c3 nonprofit

Contact

Blog

Mathemalchemy

This past March, I joined a group of artists, mathematicians, and mathematician-artists collaborating on a math-art installation that is generating layer upon layer of mathematical and artistic thought, narrative, punning, and play. For me, during this summer of covid, the “Mathemalchemy” project has been an opportunity both to get to know a bunch of really …

Herons

First came chickens (well, eggs, but that’s another story), then came penguins; now come herons. Wheel thrown and altered, underglazes and sponged glazes , ^6 oxidation, standing on #8-32 threaded zinc-coated steel rods. In an interesting reminder that physics is always at play in pottery, the bird necks twisted clockwise during firing. Given that the …

I bought a domain!

I’ve had my hands in clay since 2002, but it took Covid-19 to nudge me into creating a real website–one that’s more professional than my longtime blogger.com blog (which includes non-ceramics content) and more attractive and more malleable than Facebook. Thanks for visiting the site, and for bearing with me as I figure out how …